Surrounding the core of identity and values of a school, we have identified five additional components, and my upcoming posts will each delve into one of these components. As we go through this process, the bonds and interconnectedness will begin to become clear, weaving together a full picture.
The first component relates to the school climate and environment. Think about the various subject teachers who have taught you or your children over the years. How many of them did not know a majority of their students by name? An entertaining but sad clip has been going around YouTube lately, relaying the story of a student who is late handing in his test. As a result, the teacher does not allow him to add his exam to the pile on her desk. The student then asks the teacher, “Excuse me, do you know my name?” and when she answers that she does not, he slips his test paper into the pile and quickly runs out of the room.
How do most students you know react to hearing the following statement on the loudspeaker, “Will student X please report to the office of the principal?” What happens when a teacher is paged to the very same office during recess? Do students dare walk around in the hallways near the teachers’ room? Do younger students feel safe walking through the hallways of the older kids? Are teachers willing to expose themselves and share disappointments and failures with the peers during staff meetings, enabling themselves to receive feedback and guidance from their peers, or do they fear that people will view them with less respect and that this honesty may ultimately lead to their termination?
Through the AMIT Network’s Gogya Initiative, one of our primarily areas of focus relates to the school climate and environment being one of tolerance, acceptance and growth for everyone who walks through the doors of the school. This climate allows for relaxed, ongoing connections between the student, teacher and principal and enables and encourages trail, error, and joint learning from our mistakes.
The methodologies are different and each school finds the path that is most fitting, based on their identity and values and based on the change process they are trying to lead, but all with the same goal. The goal of creating a safe, warm, embracing, open space of ongoing learning and sharing.
Here are some examples of how we turn this into practice in our AMIT schools:
- At one of our schools, it was decided that students would study only two subjects each day, so that subject teachers spend blocks of four hours with their students, and interact with a much smaller number of students each semester. This change has enabled a much deeper connection between the faculty and students, and has given students a sense that there are a number of significant adults with whom they can bond, share, and consult, beyond just the homeroom teacher.
- At another school, it was decided that every single teacher would act as an educational role model, and each teacher took on ten students who are their own personal charges. These groups combine students of all ages, enabling both better and broader connections among students, and stronger bonds with the subject teachers as well.
- In a number of AMIT schools, the staff chose to establish unique teacher communities. As opposed to regular staff meetings, the goal of this group is to create a space that enables sharing, learning, research and development, and encourages teachers to speak openly about their challenges and failures, and work collaboratively to learn from them and move onward and upward.
These are just three of many examples of how we put this into practice at AMIT. We’ve seen the results make an impact on our students and teachers each day.
Dr. Amnon Eldar is the Director General of AMIT. AMIT is the premier education network in Israel, serving more than 33,000 students each year in its 110 schools in 29 cities throughout Israel. AMIT enables students to reach their fullest potential and become productive members of Israeli society with the skills necessary to build a successful future. For more information, please visit www.amitchildren.org.